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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Carnosine: can understanding its actions on energy metabolism and protein homeostasis inform its therapeutic potential?

Alan R Hipkiss*, Stephanie P Cartwright, Clare Bromley, Stephane R Gross and Roslyn M Bill*

Author Affiliations

Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK

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Chemistry Central Journal 2013, 7:38  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-7-38

Published: 25 February 2013

Abstract

The dipeptide carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine) has contrasting but beneficial effects on cellular activity. It delays cellular senescence and rejuvenates cultured senescent mammalian cells. However, it also inhibits the growth of cultured tumour cells. Based on studies in several organisms, we speculate that carnosine exerts these apparently opposing actions by affecting energy metabolism and/or protein homeostasis (proteostasis). Specific effects on energy metabolism include the dipeptide’s influence on cellular ATP concentrations. Carnosine’s ability to reduce the formation of altered proteins (typically adducts of methylglyoxal) and enhance proteolysis of aberrant polypeptides is indicative of its influence on proteostasis. Furthermore these dual actions might provide a rationale for the use of carnosine in the treatment or prevention of diverse age-related conditions where energy metabolism or proteostasis are compromised. These include cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and the complications of type-2 diabetes (nephropathy, cataracts, stroke and pain), which might all benefit from knowledge of carnosine’s mode of action on human cells.

Keywords:
Carnosine; Energy metabolism; Reactive oxygen species (ROS); Methylglyoxal; Proteolysis; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; Diabetes; Cancer; Yeast